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The Invasion of the Specs Shops

By on November 15, 2016

Cross Eyes, Bailey Nelson and a few other new arrivals are offering a different approach to optical retailing that has the potential to be a game changer for our profession.

Their formula is as follows

  • Create an inviting, novel retail environment and make the frames the stars of the show by giving them light, space and quality display materials.
  • Only stock a collection of unique, own brand, stylish quality frames and offer them complete with excellent lenses all at one affordable price point for single vision.
  • Simplify, minimise and prominently display your price list including lens upgrades so your customers know exactly how much they are likely to pay while they browse.
  • Carefully create and unfailingly deliver an enjoyable, friendly and relaxed customer experience.
  • Focus on fashion and style and encourage multiple purchases over time.
  • Never discount, because your prices are amazing already.

Their model seems to be attracting people …

  • who want to look good,
  • who are attracted to modern, original individual style options,
  • who value an enjoyable friendly relaxed retail experience,
  • who can’t afford or reject expensive designer brands,
  • who don’t feel that they need the latest hi-tech expensive lenses,
  • who feel that their last specs cost them too much


Who is doing it?

Many people credit Warby Parker with creating the Specs Shop model, they have grown to 47 Locations in the USA (9 of which offer eye examinations) and one in Canada and they have a massive online business.

They say “…designer eyewear at a revolutionary price.

USA Price – $95 for frame and polycarbonate, anti scratch, anti-reflective coated lenses with 100% UV protection

Warby Parker’s turnover was reported to be “over $115 million in 2015”


Bailey Nelson took the Specs Shop formula and ran with it first in Australia – 20 Boutiques and then New Zealand – 4 Boutiques, then Canada – 7 Boutiques and now the UK – 7 Boutiques and they too have an impressive online shopping platform.

They say “we make incredible glasses incredibly affordable

UK price – £98 for frame plus anti-glare, anti-scratch and anti-fog multicoat lenses and if you require an eye test it will be £20


And now from Denmark we have Cross Eyes, in Denmark they have 11 Butikker and in the UK 14 Stores. They are growing rapidly with large investment and an attractively priced franchise.

They say “Cool, Danish designed glasses should be for everyone

UK Price – £145 “includes eye test, free selection of frame, lightweight lens, wide progressive zone, hardening and anti-reflex.”


Cubbitts Offer a more traditional application of a new model that radiates style and quality for a more discerning customer but it’s still offered at a very affordable price point.

Buy online, visit one of their three beautifully designed Workshops or see them in Harvey Nichols.

They say Working Opticians Spectacle Makers

UK price – £125 including handmade frame and single vision anti reflection, anti scratch lenses; in addition bespoke frames are from £425. Comprehensive eye examinations are £25 with a pair of spectacles or £40 otherwise


Toy Shades Buy online or go to Topshop, yes Topshop!!!

10 UK Stockists – 9 concessions in Topshop and 1 in Barber and Parker.

17 Australian stockists, 3 in Bali, 3 in the United Arab Emirates and 1 in Iran

They say “Simply put – the best collection of fashionable frames with prescription lenses at an affordable price-point...”

UK price – £40 is complete with lenses and their customers go elsewhere for an eye exam.


These are not the new bucket shops!

They are carefully crafted brands that have been meticulously designed to take profitable market share on line and in physical locations, they have huge investment and are driven by quality senior management.


Far more than a price based strategy

If you focus on the price point itself “Well we could do frames like that for that price if we wanted to” you have completely missed the point!


The specs shops aren’t simply offering a new value for money proposition they are trying to change the way people think about and purchase their eyewear!


There are no Practices here, Warby Parker have Locations, Bailey Nelson have Boutiques, Cross Eyes have Butikker and Stores, Cubbits have Workshops and Toy Shades have Stockists!


if the eye test becomes an incidental and

if new stylish, attractive, eyewear is very affordable and

if this is offered in a modern fashion retail environment rather than a clinic and

if the experience is inviting, engaging relaxed and fun and

if the process focuses on personal style rather than function,

then for some people…

eyewear will be seen as a fashion accessory and

they will visit these Locations / Boutiques / Stores more often and

they will start buying new specs from them when they feel like it

instead of when they are told that they need to!


What to do if a specs shop opens in your town?

Well you could move even further up market but the specs shop is designed to entice customers down the hill for a very acceptable lower priced offering and premium optics in most towns is becoming overcrowded with too many practices trying to sell to the less than 10% of the population who can afford or are willing to pay top price.

The good news is that it is relatively easy to complete with the model if you are prepared adopt a Yes And strategy

Yes we too focus on style and fashion

Yes we too offer an excellent retail experience

Yes we too offer a great retail environment

Yes we too offer similar frames at the same price points

AND we offer a lot more besides.


The key is to do all of the above brilliantly and then carefully communicate this to the people in your town.






About Andy Clark

Practice Building Founder Andy Clark has extensive experience of the business of optics with both the multiples and the Independent sector, he is an award winning educator with a passion for creating learning experiences that have lasting value.

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